Category Archives: Venturing Out

Trump Supporters Like Dogs, Too.

Trump MeI grew up in a single parent democratic household with many democratic family friends.  I heard a lot about how Republicans were nothing but “warmongers” who would not help the poor.   I was told that they wanted to spend all of our tax money on bombs not food for the poor.  They sounded like horrible people to young Lisa, but I didn’t pay much attention to politics until Ronald Reagan was elected.

Reagan was elected when I was in 4th grade when I was a poor kid on reduced price lunch. I was upset that he beat Carter because I LOVED Carter.  Our teacher made us watch the inauguration speech in class.  One of my classmates, Kenny, yelled, “Tell ‘em Reagan!”  I told him to be quiet and my teacher got mad at me.  Later, when Reagan wanted to make ketchup count as a vegetable in the school lunch, I hated him more. That is one of the first times I felt like the lone liberal.  The lone liberal actually sounds like a superhero who wears a mask and rides a horse, but it’s really not that exciting.

Last week, we found out that President Trump would be coming to our local high school.  My liberal friends were posting about it on Facebook, saying that it would be a “circus” and they would stay away from it.  I agreed.  I had no desire to go.  So, when my husband registered for tickets and said he wanted to go “see a sitting president” I was scared.  At first, I really did not want to go.  I got really anxious about it.

What we imagine is always worse than reality. I imagined being physically thrown out of the rally.  I imagined being burned at the stake.  I imagined being arrested.  I imagined a lot of horrible things, and then I remembered that I don’t have Democrat tattooed on my forehead, or anywhere.

When the time came to drive over to the school, I was super stressed.  So, the husband and I had a drink.  I was not drunk, but my stomach stopped cramping and I felt like maybe I would not be lynched.

Trump Protest

We had to park like a mile from the school.  The speech was supposed to start at 6:30 and doors opened at 3:30.  We got there at around 6:00 and heard that people had been in line since 8:00am.  Why?  Do they not have Twitter?  You can “hear” him speak at any time.

So, we were at the end of a very long line. It was super-hot and I had worn jeans.  I thought we would be in an overly airconditioned auditorium.  I was wrong.  We didn’t even make it in the building.  We were put in an overflow area, a small grassy spot between the parking lot and the school, where a screen was set up. When my son and his girlfriend went to see President Obama a couple of years ago, they ended up in an overflow room with ac and seats.  Not here.  Even the overflow rooms were filled. We were standing outside and SWEATING.

As we were standing there, I noticed a lot of really smart people.  They were the people who were selling things to a captive audience.  There were hats, t-shirts, and even socks for sale. There were people selling water, lemonade, and iced tea.  There was even someone selling beer across the street from the school.  We bought a couple of bottled waters.

Honestly, everything was cool and almost normal, except for everyone being white.  It was nothing like I expected.  And then the president took the stage and the crowd became a little more energetic. Everyone applauded loudly.  I used both hands to hold my bottled water to get out of clapping.  There were chants of “build the wall” and “CNN sucks.” I kept quiet.

President Trump began his speech by talking about “the elite” who snub his followers.  He said, “they are more elite than me? I have everything better than they have. And I became president. And it is driving them crazy.” The crowd cheered.  I clung to my water.

Next President Trump, began talking about Senator Jim Jordan, the former OSU assistant wrestling coach who is a candidate for speaker of the house while being accused of covering up sexual abuse at OSU while he worked there. The president introduced him, “Jim Jordan—how great is he? Come up here, Jim.” There were chants of “speaker of the house.” Trump joked with him and asked him if he had wrestled at the high school where the speech was being held.

Jordan stepped up to the microphone and spoke to the crowd.  The biggest cheers for Jordan came when he said: “embassy is going to Jerusalem.”

Trump Crowd

After Jordan stepped away from the microphone, President Trump took over again.  He mentioned that “Maxine Waters is a seriously low IQ person.” Then, he started talking about our local Democratic candidate for Congress, Danny O’Connor.  “A vote for Danny boy and the Democrats is a vote to let drugs and criminals into the country.”  He followed up with, “they don’t care about the crime, they don’t care about the military, and they don’t care about your vets.”

I stood there and thought about how wrong he was.  I have a lot of liberal friends.  We care about our military and our vets.  We frequently donate to veteran causes and send care packages to the military.  I wish the president wouldn’t add to this already divisive political culture.  I also wish he would get his facts straight and look at actual crime statistics.

But there was no such luck, Trump went on to say, “we want our country to be a sanctuary for law-abiding citizens, not illegal aliens.” The crowd chanted “build that wall.” I clung to my water bottle.

A woman who was standing next to me leaned over and said, “he really is a great speaker.” I had talked to her earlier before the speech started.  She is a teacher with a husband and at least one teen son, who was there with a red Make America Great Again hat.  I had also chatted with her husband about jury duty.  Like me, he was horrified by the brutal crimes that occurred in our sleepy little county.

By this point, my husband and I were super sweaty and just wanted to go get ice cream.  So, we left early.  As we were walking to the school’s exit, a man and his tween son started walking with us.  The man told us they had gotten there early and made it into the school, but that is was very hot inside, too.  For some reason, we got on the subject of animals. This man and his family had rescued a few dogs from shelters.  My husband talked to him about our rescues and we all really bonded over our love of animals.  I also chatted a bit with his son about how much I loved American Chinese food.  He said, “You mean the kind with peas and carrots in the fried rice.” I said, “Exactly! Totally not authentic.”  We laughed.

As we got near the exit, we noticed an old couple leaning against a cement pole together.  The man we were walking with asked them, “Are you OK?  I can go get my van and take you to your car.”  They thanked him but said someone was coming to get them.  He made sure they were ok and then we kept walking together until we had to go our separate ways to our parking spots.

As we walked back to our car, which as I mentioned was a mile away or so, I was lost in my thoughts.  I had gone there expecting to be frightened by Trump followers.  I had actually worn closed shoes instead of flip-flops in case I needed to make a run for it.  I didn’t like what the president had to say, and I never do, but I was pleasantly surprised by his followers.  They don’t have horns.  They aren’t stupid. They are animal lovers, teachers, and parents.  They really are a lot more like us than they are different.  Maybe we should go to each other’s rallies more often, not to protest, but just to listen.

I’m still a Democrat.  I still want to help immigrants and poor people.  I think of America as a melting pot, or a colorful tossed salad of cultures, not a walled compound.  Really, we are all immigrants.  Let’s be nice to each other and actually talk to each other as people.  Most of us don’t have horns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Kate Spade Moment

I ventured to the outlet mall with the husband on Sunday.  I wasn’t going to go anywhere because I just switched from Zoloft to Lexapro and I wanted to be sure I was “normal” enough to go out in public.  Then, I said, “Screw it! Let’s go shopping.”  I wasn’t really planning on buying anything because as the husband says, “We’ve been spending money like drunken sailors.” I’m not sure what that means as we have not purchased hookers or cheap rum, or any rum for that matter.

But then there was a Kate Spade store. Cue the harps. Everything was 70% off.  My wonderful husband insisted that we go look around.  This is why I love him.  Well, there are other reasons, but his insisting that I buy even more purses is one of them.  So, of course, I found two purses that did not even cost as much as one Kate usually does.  I walked out of the store smiling with my Kate Spade shopping bag hanging off of my arm.

Then, we began looking in different clothing stores.  The husband (we’ll call him Chris) was looking for good deals on Polo shirts because he only has 872 of them in every color in the Roy G. Biv rainbow.  He needs more shirts, you guys.  He’s got a uniform to maintain.

Finally, at G.H. Bass, he found the gold mine of Polo shirts.  Can we call them all “Polo” like people in the South call all sodas “Coke?”  Anyway, you know what I mean – short sleeve business casual and/or golf shirts with three buttons.  They had a ton of them, so he grabbed a few to try on.

While he was in the fitting room, I must have looked lost because the manager (she seemed in charge so she must have been the manager, right?) came over to ask me if I needed help with anything.  I said, “no, thanks” and raised my bag, telling her that I already spent money today.

That’s when my awkward light came on.

Manager: Have you seen our purses? [She points to a bunch of perfectly nice looking purses without Kate Spade labels.]

Me: I’m kind of partial to Kate. [I held up the purse I had hanging cross body.]

Manager: [Gets a serious look on her face] Oh yeah, especially now.

For those of you who don’t know or don’t care, Kate Spade committed suicide a few weeks ago.

Me: Yes, it’s a shame she didn’t just take her meds.  I take meds. I don’t understand why people are ashamed of taking meds.

Manager: Me, too.

Me: I read that she self-medicated with alcohol, which is the opposite of what she needed.

Manager: Yep, because it’s a depressant.

My Brain: Hold my beer, Lisa.  Shit is about to get awkward.

Me:  Years ago, when I was going through my divorce.  I wanted to kill myself.  I sat in a closet and thought about buying a gun and shooting myself.

Manager’s Brain: Seriously Shari, you need to stop talking to customers you always get the weirdos.

Me: I was doing comedy at the time, and the next night I did a show, and everyone was telling me how funny I was and how much they loved me.  I was thinking if they only knew.

Manager: Yep, you never know I guess.

Manager’s Brain:  Shari, say something neutral and back away slowly.  You are not the fucking suicide hotline.

Manager: I wonder what happened with Anthony Bourdain.

Me: Yeah, I wonder.  Who knows.

My Brain: Just stop.  You have been awkward enough for one day.

Me: [Looking around store.]

Manager: Well, look around.  Let me know if you need help with anything. [walks away]

I bet there are a lot of people out there who talk about me at the dinner table.  They usually have stories that begin with, “So, I had the weirdest customer/patient/client today.” You just know that manager Shari sat down to dinner with her friends and/or family later and said, “You guys, do I have therapist written across my forehead, or what?”  Sorry, Shari!

 

 

Not so Shocking Gators in Disney

I was born and raised in Florida.  I have seen alligators on golf courses and in parking lots.  I know they exist.  I have been to Disney more times than I have been to Red Lobster.  I never stayed at the Grand Floridian because I am not made of cash, but I have walked near the Seven Seas Lagoon, and I have ridden boats on it.  I never saw an alligator on Disney property, and I never expected to see one there.  I was in Disney, where magic is real and all animals are animatronic. The only alligator I saw during any of my trips to the land of magic was in the Peter Pan ride.

I’m sick to my stomach over little Lane’s alligator related death.  I can’t imagine the horror he felt or the horror that his parents will live with forever. Of course, hard hearted idiots out there are already blaming the parents.  People are saying it is “common sense” to know to keep your kids away from a lake in Florida, especially one with No Swimming signs.  Common sense is not so common and the kid wasn’t swimming.  He was walking in the water, or wading.  Common sense is made up of your experiences, the things you learn during life.  Lane’s family is from Nebraska.  Alligators are not a part of a Nebraska resident’s common sense.

Honestly, I don’t think common sense would have kicked in for me either.  Have you seen the beach area at the Grand Floridian?  Shocker – it looks just like a beach.  There’s beautiful white sand, beach chairs, and a regular looking shore line.  Yes, there are No Swimming signs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t touch the water, or be near it.  Why wouldn’t kids want to build sand castles next on a nice little shore like this?   Why wouldn’t parents let them? There were no alligator warning signs.  No Swimming isn’t equivalent to saying, “There are alligators in the lake.”  I think that would have gotten everyone’s attention.

And Disney should have had signs like this because they KNEW there was a problem.  Management was aware that some guests were feeding alligators.  Employees even requested that a fence be built.  Disney even has its own “wildlife-management team” in place to remove nuisance gators.  In spite of all of this, the folks at Disney still showed movies on the beach at night.  They were encouraging families to hang out on a beach next to a gator filled lake at night, alligator meal time.  Why are we shocked that an alligator, a wild predator, took a small kid standing next to its habitat during feeding time?

As with any tragic event, we have the thoughts and prayers people.  Wow, what a lovely and totally useless sentiment.  “Thoughts and prayers.” I see this over and over on social media.  So, just whispering to yourself in your home or church or wherever, or thinking nice thoughts is going to bring back the little boy? Is it going to take away the parents’ sadness and guilt? What exactly do thoughts and prayers actually do? Why do people feel obligated to say this? Either be quiet or just speak the truth.  Say things like:

“I’m sorry you are going through this.”

“If I could do anything to change it, I would.”

“I feel helpless and I don’t know what to say.”

Seriously, if I were in this situation and someone offered “thoughts and prayers” I would go on a jack-slapping spree.

Maybe, instead of thinking and praying, we can do real things like work to prevent this from happening to another family.  Call Disney, write them, picket them, fly a banner over the Magic Kingdom, write snarky blogs, call your congressman. Do whatever you can.  Demand that fences go up. Heck, maybe we can even bring Donald Trump to Florida and have him build a wall around the Seven Seas Lagoon.  This should never happen again. If there is a known problem we need to work on an actual solution, not just sit around and talk about how rare it is and hope it doesn’t happen again.

Yes, I know. Alligators were there first.  Blah, blah, blah. That doesn’t mean we can just let them eat pets and children.  Maybe we need to start actually thinking of ways to protect everyone, alligators included, by maintaining a healthy separation.  Those five gators in the Seven Seas Lagoon would not have been killed if there had been a fence or even an honest sign about WHY there was no swimming allowed.  The sign should have a picture of an alligator with big teeth, just to show our friends who don’t speak English what the real deal is. Until then, I will enjoy all of my Disney magic in California, where there are no gators.  The humidity is also a lot lower.

It doesn't LOOK like a lake of gators. Photo from Disneydining.com
It doesn’t LOOK like a lake of gators.
Photo from Disneydining.com

 

 

Chewbacca Lady, WTF?

Unless you live in an off the grid tiny house in a rain forest, you have heard of Chewbacca Lady, the latest in a long line of asinine internet superstars. Okay I get it.  I’m a big ole Oscar the grouch pajama wearing meanie.  I don’t find Chewbacca Lady deserving of all of this media attention. I also didn’t think Kim Davis deserved it, or Rebecca Black and her godawful Friday ear worm. And let’s not even talk about the Kardashians here.  Really, here in Murica, a whole lot of people doing nothing of importance become “celebrities.”

So, when I first saw that Chewbacca Lady had gone viral for putting on a mask and laughing, it irritated me.  When I found out she was using her way more than fifteen minutes of fame to push Jesus, I became more annoyed. In case you are unfamiliar with Atheism, let me clarify.  I don’t have a problem with Chewbacca Lady because she is a Christian.  I have a problem with her pushing it on everyone via a Star Wars mask.

Since her video went viral, Candace Payne has been on numerous TV shows. She has spoken at Christian conferences. She has toured Disney World and Lucas studios.  Mark Zuckerberg himself invited her to tour Facebook and tagged her in a post.  Now, Southeastern University in Florida wants to give Chewbacca mom and her family FREE college.  It’s crazy.  She put on a mask in a car and laughed her ass off.

Just to be clear, I don’t think Candace Payne is less deserving of her pseudo celebrity status because of her beliefs. I just wish that other causes and people would receive this much attention. For example, my friend Heidi Floyd, a Christian and pastor’s wife, travels all over raising money for cancer research while still battling the disease. I wish SHE could get this level of attention so that more people would donate to cancer research or volunteer to help cancer patients etc.

I also know a young woman named Heather who just turned 30 and is battling pancreatic cancer.  Heather has two young kids, a husband, many family and friends, and patients who rely on her.  That’s right.  Heather is a nurse who has not been able to work because of her disease. You may know how I feel about Go Fund Me, but in this case, I would love Heather to get all of the funds she needs for her mountain of medical bills. If you can help, please do visit Heather’s page and donate. Not only is she battling the disease, but she is raising a lot of awareness, too.

There are many people out there actually doing things to help others.  They deserve this level of attention.  They deserve to have everyone know their names.  Candace just is not one of these people.

Religious friends, I can hear you.  “But Lisa.  Chewbacca lady is doing something wonderful.  She is spreading the word of God and the joy of Jesus.” Maybe she should put on her Chewbacca mask and laugh her way over to Africa, the Middle East, or anywhere in the world really and tell all of the starving children without safe places to live about this joyful Jesus and his daddy, God. I bet the kids think true joy would come from a sandwich and a roof, not an invisible man in the sky.

We need to start putting people in the spot light who deserve to be there. We need to place more value on those who help others, like nurses, teachers, firefighter, doctors, and volunteers.  Imagine what we could do as a society if we actually came together and helped each other rather than admiring viral video stars and other b-rate celebrities.  If you know someone who is really doing something good, please leave a name and or link in the comments section.  Let’s publicize the people who really deserve recognition.

 

 

 

Purple Rain When You're 44 1/2.

I never saw Purple Rain when it came out in 1984. It was the summer before 8th grade for me, and I could not get into an R-rated movie.  A couple of years later, I tried to watch it on HBO.  I caught it about half way through, and back then we couldn’t rewind TV (dark times).  Of course, right when Prince was making love to a huge speaker and begging Darling Nikki to come back, my step-dad walked in.

We lived in a small apartment, and the living room TV was the only one that had HBO. My dad walked in the front door and saw the screen instantly.  “What’s this GAHBAGE?” He yelled in his Boston accent.

I felt my face get hot. “Um, it’s a movie. Um, Purple Rain.” I stammered.

“A movie! Why do you wanna watch smut like that?  Shut that off!”

So, I did as I was told and went in my room to read V.C Andrews books, also smut.  Since I had to turn off the TV and leave the room in shame, and it was 1987 and no cool pirated copies were on YouTube, I never ended up seeing Purple Rain until this week.

After Prince died, theaters decided to show Purple Rain. My friend bought a bunch of tickets to a local showing, so my husband and I decided to go.  As I stared up at the screen from my second row reclining seat, the first thing I noticed was the blur.  No, I wasn’t drunk, even though this fancy theater does have a bar.  The screen appeared blurry.  But it wasn’t.  It was just in glorious 1984 high tech film. You see, young people, there was a time before HD.  Yes, they were dark times.  We used to not be able to see every pore and wrinkle on someone’s face. It was truly a tragedy.

My son and his girlfriend joined my husband, friends and me to see the movie.  It’s ok; they aren’t little kids.  They are 19 and 20, and the girlfriend covered my son’s eyes during certain, um, scenes with Apollonia.  Even so, it was kind of awkward to be sitting two seats away from my baby boy when Apollonia’s obviously enhanced breasts covered the entire screen.  I’m glad my dad didn’t walk in during THAT when I was a teen.

After the movie, on the way home, my son commented on the movie and how it really wasn’t a movie, more of a music video.  He didn’t say anything about Apollonia’s boobs or leather outfit, instead he wondered what the writers’ meeting for Purple Rain must have been like. According to my son, it went something like this.

Writer 1:  Well, we have an hour of Prince performing. Maybe we should throw in a light plot, or something.

Writer 2:  He could be in love, and maybe smack a woman here and there.

Writer 3:  And The Time can play two songs and throw another woman in a dumpster.

Writer 1:  OK! Sounds like we got a movie.

My son is probably right.  While I will always love Prince’s music.  Purple Rain was not a great movie.  It was kind of like a Lifetime movie with a good sound track. It had all of the necessary elements: domestic violence, alcoholism, jealousy, and someone clinging to life in a hospital bed.  The only thing it was missing was a court scene, really.  They probably should have just left the plot part out and just marketed it as one long music video.

Even though it was not the best written film ever, it did hold my attention. I had to pee through most of it, but I kept holding it because I did not want to miss anything.  Then, when Apollonia 6 took the stage, I knew I had time to run to the bathroom.  I just wasn’t interested in women in lingerie singing a bad pop song, or women in lingerie in general.

I’m not going to lie.  I held back tears throughout the entire movie.  Most of the time, I was sitting there thinking, “I can’t believe he’s dead.  Fifty-seven is too young.”  Plus, I’m 44 and ½.  Fifty-seven is right around the corner for me.  Well, maybe not right around the corner. It’s more like half way across town and around the bend, but still.  It’s not that far off.  I was 12 when I heard my first Prince song.  Life has slipped by so quickly.

Other times I was wondering how he was that skinny.  I only saw two foods in movie, Doritos and gummy bears. I don’t think he ate either of them.  Seriously, he had the physique of a prepubescent girl.  I also really wondered where he got his clothes.  Was there a Napoleon R Us store in the 80’s? There was no Amazon, so it wasn’t like it was easy to find real 1799 vintage French Army attire.

It seems like A LOT of great musicians have died this year already, and we are not even half way through the year. I guess this is part of being middle aged. The people we looked up to when we were young are dropping like butts on toilet seats at Taco Bell. I keeping my fingers crossed that Billy Joel, Don Henley, and every member of Guns and Roses will be around for years and years.  All musicians who found fame in the 80’s need to be checked on daily, and possibly wrapped in protective gear. Who do you want to bubble wrap? Let me hear from you in the comment section.

Prince Purple Rain
Image from Amazon.com

 

 

 

Pete Yorn and Middle Aged Dancers

I’m not a Pete Yorn fan, but my husband is.  Since my husband takes me to Disney even though he hates theme parks, I go to live music events with him even though I find staring at a musician I didn’t give birth to as exciting as folding socks.  And this is on a normal day.  Factor in that I had just sat through nine hours of jury duty and had not slept much the night before.  I was close to comatose.   Lucky for me and the husband, I found a concrete “bench” to sit on at the venue as there was really no other seating.

How can there be no seating at a show with an audience full of the newly arthritic joints generation, formerly known as Generation X? There were only like four people under forty there, and they were wearing “Security” shirts.  There should have been row upon row of recliners, but there were no seats.  So, I sat on that concrete and pretended I was Wilma Flintstone sitting on my couch.

While I was sitting there, trying to visualize my bed, I did the only thing I could do in this situation.  I started people watching.  Since I was super tired, and I have a fear of crowded public restrooms used by women who have been downing large beers, I did not eat or drink anything at the event.  My husband, who has the bladder of a camel, sat next to me enjoying pizza and beer. I just stared at everyone.  Of course, I had to start taking notes because the glucosamine party crew was trying to dance.  Here is what I saw.

The I’m Super Cool Drinking Beer Listening to Tunes Jog Walk – You’ve seen this.  The person holds the beer like a trophy and takes huge steps like she is stepping over piles of Great Dane shit.

The Hippie Plie – The heels are touching and knees are pointed out.  The “dancer” bounces up and down like she is wearing a tutu that only she can see.

The I’m not Really 45 Head Bob – Maybe the person is not really into the music, or maybe his knees aren’t quite Adviled up enough to plie.

The I’m Sorta Trying to be Axl Sway – This guy REALLY WANTS to be 1988 Axl Rose.  He tries to do the snakey dance moves Axl did when he sang, but this middle aged dude’s back just can’t quite slither.

The I’m Just Gonna Look at my Phone – I admit it. For the most part this was me.  In my defense, I was taking notes for this fabulous blog.  So, there’s that.

The I Might be Having a Seizure or I Might be Dancing – This person has taken too much Prozac and gives zero fucks.  He moves his entire body as though he has been electrocuted.  When you are observing it, you don’t know whether to call 911 or applaud.

I tried not to laugh openly while watching all of this.  This is part of the reason I focused on taking notes.  The other reason was to take my attention from gagging at the odor of the place.  I didn’t know if I was smelling someone’s beer or old piss.  I’m talking about actual urine not an accurately named craft ale. Seriously, concert venues out there, can you not get some Nature’s Miracle? It works for cat piss, so it should work on beer splatter.

So, do you recognize any of these fabulous “dance” moves?  Have you done any of them.  Let me hear from you in the comments section.  Extra points for pictures or video.

A hermit at the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop

Hermit at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop

As I clutched the steering wheel with sweaty palms, I glanced over at the speed limit sign on the side of the highway and wondered two things.  Why don’t they have a separate highway for huge trucks? And why had I agreed to leave my nice, safe house and travel to the Erma Bombeck conference?

I had been excited to attend the Erma conference for the entire four months between the time I bought the ticket and the day it was time to make the big drive to the University of Dayton, Erma’s alma mater. On the actual day I had to leave my cozy warm home, family, dogs and cats, I got a little anxious.  Sure, I would get to spend time with writers that I know and love while learning new and fascinating things, but I was also going to HAVE to spend time with people for four days straight.  As an introvert, I lose energy from peopling.  So, I eased myself into socializing.

My shoulders were knotted throughout my entire NINETY-minute drive along side huge trucks.  Yes, people who flew or drove for days, I drove a whole hour and a half to be there.  Don’t hate me because I live in the middle of corn fields.   As soon as I got to my room at the illustrious Dayton Marriott, I decided there was no way I was going to the awards event at the library that night. I imagined a crowded library full of people I did not know, a standing room only event.  Nope. So, instead, I unpacked and hung up my clothes.  Then, I ordered room service and ate in silence as nature intended.  I was slightly disappointed by the WAY TOO MUCH guac on my turkey burger and the fact that this was a Pepsi establishment (I’m a Diet Coke purist), but overall I enjoyed eating without having to feed animals first or do dishes after.  I’m lying. My husband usually does the dishes.

 A hermit at the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop
 My light switch is off. 

At around 8, I received a Facebook message from one of my favorite writers, Her Royal Thighness.  She summoned to the bar as only someone royal can. I had a good couple of hours hanging out with the crew.  Then, the little light in my head turned off and I knew I was done with people for the night.  I got up and told everyone that I had to go read.  Some of them understood what I meant.

I tried my best to appear extroverted throughout the conference. I was super social for me but probably not really social compared to others. I did things to help myself survive the conference and get the most out of it. I had room service four times during the five days I was there, once was during dinner the last night because I wanted to go to the stand-up comedy show later.  I knew that I would not be able to do both. I cancelled housekeeping so I could go back to my room as needed and not have people in there cleaning.  I sat on aisles during presentations because I hate being smooshed between people.  I feel claustrophobic really easily.

I’m glad I was a little on the anti-social side.  I avoided the Erma flu.  Well, some people caught the flu. Others caught a stomach virus, which is NOT the flu.  I don’t know why, but people saying “stomach flu” irritates the piss out of me. At any rate, I’m glad I avoided both of the viruses that were going around. I did so with a combination of not shaking a lot of hands and using hand sanitizer like I was being paid to do so.

I really enjoyed most of the workshops I attended.  My favorite by far was “How to Uncover Your Voice and Get It Down on Paper.”  The speakers, Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff, taught us how to set a kitchen timer and just write without editing or judging ourselves.  As a writing professor, I have known about free writing for years, but I had never really allowed myself the pleasure. During the last five minutes of the workshop, someone told me that Kathy Kinney was Mimi on the Drew Carey Show.  I had not realized that.  I just thought that she and Cindy were awesome workshop leaders.  I immediately followed them on Facebook and liked their page Queen of Your Own Life.

Kathy wasn’t the only famous person at the conference.  A lot of people were taking pictures with Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess, Alan Zweibel (one of the original SNL writers), author Amy Ephron, and writer, actor, and producer Cathryn Michon.  Honestly, I’m just not a fan girl.  I didn’t get pictures or autographs. I haven’t been star struck since I met Michael J. Fox when I was 19.  They are just people with cool jobs. They eat, sleep, and crap like the rest of us. I was impressed with knowledge they were willing to share with us, not the fact that they had been on TV.

The Erma conference is the best writer’s conference I have been to.  I am looking forward to the next one in 2018.  I know that I will probably have a mini panic attack while I am driving there along side semis, just like I did this year. I know I will bathe in hand sanitizer and fight the urge to wear a surgical mask.  My husband suggested that I should buy a bunch of hand sanitizer, don fairy wings and a tiara, and just go as the hand sanitizer fairy.  I think I might do it.  So, if you are at Erma in 2018, look for the short, chubby, awkward girl with fairy wings and claim your free bottle of hand sanitizer.  It could keep you from catching the plague.

Travel Anxiety and Stress Poop

Whenever my husband and I are on a road trip, this same scene plays out. We will be on the highway, close to a rest area, and my husband will ask if I need to stop.  “Nope,” I say.  “All good.” So, we drive past the rest area, and its mostly clean toilets and head on down the highway.  A few miles down the road, there’s usually a sign that says, “No restrooms for the next 100 miles” or something like that.  Instantly, Anxiety and IBS, start talking to me.  “You have to GO now,” they tell me while pinching my lower abdomen.  I start to panic, knowing there is no bathroom for MILES.  I’m never certain if I’m panicking because I have to poop, or if I have to poop because I’m panicking.  This is kind of like that chicken and egg question.  Which comes first — anxiety or IBS? Or do they just arrive together like a coked up celebrity couple at a B-rate awards ceremony?

Over winter break, we travelled to Southern California AKA where I want to die some day.  Lucky for me, that was not a road trip because it would’ve been a hella long trip with A LOT of poop anxiety between rest stops.  Unlucky for me, it did include air travel, which is in Dante’s third circle of hell, I believe.  Flying causes me all sorts of shakiness and intestinal cramping not only because I hate being WAY UP HIGH, but I also hate being smooshed next to strangers.  Seriously, I’m five foot nothing and a size 8/10. I’m not huge, and I feel claustrophobic.  The seats really are getting smaller.  And so is the bathroom.  How do bigger people even enter the bathroom? It is SO TINY. So, of course, I get super nervous and worry about the possibility of having to poop in it.  Therefore, I get the poop cramps as soon as I fasten my seatbelt.

Usually, after I get off the plane, I don’t have travel anxiety except for if we are doing something that makes me worry about being away from a clean, flushable toilet.  So, hiking, camping, and crowded theme parks require medication.  Also, as I learned in California, getting into a cable car and going two miles up a mountain will bring on the stress poops.

In my husband’s defense, he did ask me if I would be ok with riding in said cable car before he booked it.  And I said yes.  I was probably drunk at the time.  No, I don’t need an AA meeting. I’m not drunk often, but I would have had to have been drunk to agree to that. Anyway, on our way to the cable car it suddenly hit me.  We were about to get in a cable car, with lots of strangers, and ride on WIRES up a mountain.  “Pull over. Go to Panera. NOW!” I said as we were on our way to the murderous wire ride. My husband knew from the tone of my voice that I wasn’t craving soup in a bread bowl.  I ran into Panera like Bruce Jenner before he wore heals.  I had stress diarrhea while someone’s little kid looked at me from under the door.  WHY do little kids do that?

As soon as I got back in the car, I dug in my purse for an Ativan and swallowed it dry.  I should have taken it sooner. Unfortunately, it did not kick in until the cable car was halfway up the mountain.  Before we got on the car, we were asked to smile for the camera for an expensive touristy picture.  My husband smiled a real, genuine, this is so cool smile.  I gave the tense grin of death.  I KNEW I was about to die and I felt like I had to poop. AGAIN.

I made it to the top of the mountain without pooping.  I’m sure the other people in the cable car would be thankful for this if they knew how close they had come to riding in a toilet.  Once we got to the top, we had a nice dinner and some much needed wine.  The ride back down was not as scary because Ativan and wine.  No, I did not have A LOT of wine.  I wouldn’t do this whole cable car up the mountain thing again, but at least now I know it will not kill me.

Husband: This will be FUN! Me: I'm going to shit myself and die.
Husband: This will be FUN!
Me: I’m going to shit myself and die.

So, what about you? Any other people who get anxious about travel? If so, do you get the stress poops, too?

 

 

 

Menopause Killed my Inner MILF

Happy Monday, everyone! Please enjoy this funny guest post on menopause from my friend Vikki, and read how to win my book and others at the end.

Vikki
Vikki

Google “Benefits of Menopause,” and you’ll get 8,570,000 possible links. Over 8 1/2 million articles written on how menopause makes us stronger, sexier, more confident, and more at peace with our bodies and our sexuality. Not to mention the exhilarating freedom from periods, bloating, cramping, PMS, and the constant worry about pregnancy, however slim the chance.

What they don’t tell you in those same posts is that all that zen is achieved after menopause is over. It’s the prize at the end of a rather bumpy ride, during which you’ll start questioning whether you’ll ever be sexy again. Or if you’ll ever care.

Like most women, I like feeling attractive, sexy, desirable. I’ve spent more money than I probably should’ve towards that goal over the years, and although yoga pants and no makeup are my norm, I do clean up fairly well (which admittedly takes longer with each passing year). I have a tiny, but persistent, inner hot chick that still likes stilettos, little black dresses, and the appreciative looks from Hubs at my efforts. Menopause crashed my hotness with a thud heard in three states.

Suddenly I was more “Ma’am” than MILF. Men stopped whistling at me from the street and started helping me through the crosswalk. People no longer commented “You look so much like your mother” and started assuming we were sisters. One unfortunate store owner in town asked me if I was my son’s grandmother. (As soon as I figure out how to hide the body, he’s going to die.)

In retrospect, I’m amazed that Hubs made it through my menopausal years. He married a reasonably confident, arguably normal woman, and woke up one day to an overheated, moody, questionably sane female sobbing uncontrollably over the sudden appearance of cankles. My MILF was gone. How menopause killed it:

  1. Hot flashes. We were out at our favorite romantic restaurant, and instead of the coy flirting of our early years (“Gee, Big Guy, is it hot in here or is it just you?”), it became “Is it hot in here or what? I’mhot. Is anybody else hot??” Repeated requests to the uncooperative waiter to turn the thermostat down finally ended with a screeching “Can’t you turn the freaking heat down?!? It’s TOO FRIGGIN’ HOT IN HERE.” Hubs dragged my sweaty body out of the restaurant, and we haven’t been back since.
  2. Metabolism changes. Actually, mine didn’t change. It stopped. Weight maintenance was now limited to one Fruit Loop and a Diet Coke per day. Weightlossrequired colonic cleansing and fasting. And if you like wine, no carbs for you. Ever. Carbs plus wine make you blow up like a puffer fish, so you have to choose. I haven’t had a carb since 2009.
  3. Fatigue. I was tiredall the time. Bedtime went from 10:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., effectively eliminating boogie nights on the dance floor, since it’s virtually impossible to find a band that starts at 5:30.
  4. Night sweats. Yeah, nothing turns a man on more than being whacked on the arm at 2 a.m., to “Get up” because we have to change the cold, wet sheets. Again. After the first six months, we both got used to just tossing beach towels over the sheets and crawling back into bed. Takethat, sex life.
  5. Day sweats. I quit going to the gym after realizing my clothes would be soaked, with visible sweat pouring down between my boobs and my butt crack, and I’d only been on the treadmill for 3 minutes. It took me longer to wipe down the machine than it did to work out.
  6. Incontinence. I’d laugh. A little squirt. I’d sneeze. Another little squirt. The actual need to pee? Now I’d be clenching my Kegals while I waddle-ran to the nearest bathroom, praying there wasn’t a line and fully prepared to bust into the men’s room if necessary. By the end of the evening, I smelled like Eau de Pee, sitting in wet undies, and wondering what the hell had happened to my life. Hubs, not surprisingly, was still not turned on.
  7. Mood swings. Some days, Hubs would come home to find me sobbing over yet-another Hallmark commercial about the son returning home at Christmas to his adoring little sister and happy, teary-eyed parents. Other days, any and all comments directed at me, from anyone in the room, on any subject, were met with “What the hell iswrongwith you??” accompanied, when the stupidity-level warranted it, by a smack up ‘long side the head. Hubs claimed later that every day was a crap shoot.
  8. Physical changes. Under-arm twaddle, boobs headed towards my knees, and hips widening, irrevocably eliminated anything sleeveless or low-cut from my closet and would forevermore require military-grade underwear. Menopause underwear is designed to git ‘er done, by pushing, lifting, and shoving defiant and migrating body parts back into their original shape and place. We no longer care about lace edging or cute bows. We need Kevlar underwire and the Spanx company on speed-dial.
  9. Body heat. More consistent than hot flashes, I was basically just hot all. the. time. We had the front door open year-round, and unless it was raining, I had the top down on my car. In December. I turned the house heat completely off every night and opened all the windows. Hubs repeatedly complained that he couldn’t perform in a meat locker. I reminded him once that it’s a bad chef who blames his utensils, but apparently he didn’t get my humor. Nobody got any that night.
  10. Hunger. Suffice it to say that I wasalwayshungry. And somehow, I have no recollection of craving carrots. I do remember threatening to bludgeon Hubs to death one night for eating the last of my Milk Duds. To this day, he’s never eaten another Dud.
  11. Evening conversations tended more towards chronic menopausal-induced IBS than our mutual plans for our next vacation through the wine country. Hubs, who’s never seen me pee (not oncein 15 years) because I want to maintain a modicum of mystery in our marriage, looked a bit stunned one night when I bent over and hiked up the back of my dress, asking “When I bend over like this, can you see cellulite on the backs of my legs?” He laughed so hard, he fell off his chair, but was smart enough to leave that question untouched.

Now, at the end of the tunnel, I’m approaching inner peace. But it was a humbling and often mortifying ride. And occasionally, when I’m doing my morning prayers and meditation, my thoughts will free-fall back to those years and I’ll ask God, “Really??REALLY??”

I’m still waiting for a response.

Exciting news: Vikki Claflin, author of “Who Stole the Cork Out of My Lunch?”, and I are co-sponsoring a fabulous new book giveaway called “The Big Booty Book Bundle Giveaway!” It’s FIVE books by talented female writers that will keep you laughing out loud. And it’s free! For details and to enter, click http://laugh-lines.net/its-here-the-big-booty-book-bundle-giveaway-edition-1

book bundle ed. 1

 

Vikki Claflin writes the award-winning blog, Laugh Lines, where she doles out irreverent advice on marriage, offers humorous how-to lists galore, and shares her most embarrassing midlife moments. She shows us how to master midlife with laughter and common sense. Check out more of Vikki’s hilarious writing in her newest book, Who Left the Cork Out of My Lunch? Middle Age, Modern Marriage & Other Complications. Available at Amazon.com, B&N, and iTunes. You can also find her at http://laugh-lines.net

When Anxiety Attacks

Anyone who has anxiety knows it is a big bully.  Sometimes, though, anxiety gets drunk and takes on an even worse personality.  Instead of just going home and passing out, anxiety turns into a full blown panic attack.  If you have never had a panic attack, I’m jealous of you.  It is the most scared you will ever be without actually dying.  Here is how a panic attack generally works.

Completely out of nowhere, your heart starts beating on your chest like it is trying to escape and run off to the transplant factory.  You become alarmed by this, and then it gets worse.

Cue the “I just ran a marathon” breathing.  You pant.  You can’t quite catch your breath.  You definitely have trouble talking to anyone who may be witnessing this.

Then, you start to feel extremely hot, not sexy hot, menopause hot flash hot. If you are wearing a sweater, jacket, robe, or any sort of second layer, you start clawing that off because you are certain you are having a heat stroke.

The nausea hits next.  You get close to a trash can or toilet, usually sitting on the ground next to it because you can’t use your jelly legs. You just know you are going to barf, and that makes you more panicky because who really WANTS to barf?

But you don’t barf, usually, instead ice water starts pouring from your pores.  It soaks your shirt, if you are still wearing one.  It soaks your hair.  Suddenly, you are no longer hot.  Your breathing slows, and the pounding chest and marathon breathing slow to almost normal.  Once it is all over, you feel really weak and a little shaky.  You change your shirt and lie down if you are home.

I remember my first panic attack like it wasn’t 25 years ago. I was 19 and I had joined a therapy group for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I never received counseling when I was a kid, and the guy I was dating at the time offered to pay for therapy.  I guess he thought I really needed it.  After doing a little research by calling different therapists, I figured out that individual therapy was really expensive, so I joined a group.  It was great to sit with people who knew how I felt for real.  I made friends with my group mates.  One of the women in the group got really sick and had to be hospitalized.  So, I visited her.

My boyfriend drove me to the hospital that day.  He waited in the waiting room and I walked down the hall to her room.  Everything was going OK.  I asked her how she was doing, and she basically told me she was miserable but getting better.  There was a lull in the conversation, so I started really looking at the tubes coming out of her.  There were the usual IV tubes and needles, but there was also a feeding tube going up her nose and down her throat.  For some reason, right after I noticed that, the chest pounding and nausea hit.

I told my friend that I had to go and walked out calmly. I didn’t tell her what I was feeling because I didn’t want to upset her.  I got out the door of her room and felt dizzy and weak.  I kept walking down the hall, staring at the floor, and having a conversation in my head.

Me: Just drop. Drop to the floor. There are doctors and nurses here.

Also Me:  Nope.  You will make it to the waiting room.

And I did.  I got back to the waiting room, sat down on the floor, and started hyperventilating.  I announced that I was going to puke.  My boyfriend was the only person in the room, which spared me a lot of embarrassment, and he brought a trash can over to me.  I kept panting and saying that I was going to die.  I dry heaved a few times into the trash can.  Then, in a few minutes, it all stopped and I was fine.

My second panic attack happened when I was type testing own blood in biology lab. Why do they make students do this? I looked around the room and saw everyone’s bloody fingers, and I got dizzy and nauseated. So, I went to the bathroom and had a panic attack. I never did figure out my blood type.

I had one in line at the post office when I was pregnant.  I still managed to sign for a registered letter from my dickhead landlord while hyperventilating and trying not to puke.  I’m certain the postal clerk thought I was on drugs. I’m glad my mom was with me and driving because I was shaky and very weak after the attack.

Since then, anxiety has attacked me at random times, all over the place.  I’ve been attacked on planes, at the store, and a lot of times just sitting around at home.  They seem to happen out of nowhere for the most part.  I’m a nervous flyer, so I can kind of understand why they happen on planes, but I don’t get why they happen when I’m sitting on the couch.

Other than daily anxiety meds, which make me a wee bit too foggy for my comfort level, I wasn’t sure what to do about these attacks.  Amy Wainright read my Anxiety the Brain Bully piece and reached out to me with an offer to try her Anxiety Relief video course. Overall, I found this video series to be very helpful.  Amy’s soothing tone, and repetition of the steps for each activity really helped.  Normally, I’m not a big fan of video courses.  I find I don’t have the attention span for them as I am more of a reader than a watcher.  This course held my attention, though.

The breathing techniques were helpful.  They helped me release tense muscles that I did not know were tense. Heck, I didn’t know they existed. Amy’s Four Step Protocol could be helpful as it takes the focus off of an impending panic attack.  During this part of the video, Amy tells the viewer to “accept the feeling” of anxiety. I can see how this could work because getting anxious about anxiety often makes things worse. Amy’s techniques are great for people who don’t want to take pills regularly.

I haven’t had a panic attack since watching the videos, so I haven’t had a chance to use the breathing during an attack.  I’m eager to see how it works.  If you have anxiety and panic attacks, what do you do to alleviate them? Have you found a medication or natural technique that helps?  Share it with me in the comment section.  I’m always up for finding new ways to beat this invisible bully that lives in my brain.

Photo by: Krysten Newby
Photo by: Krysten Newby